New York Report: Wall Street flat after shares in potash plunge

THE DOW and the S&P 500 finished nearly flat yesterday, helped by gains in technology shares and Pfizer, while potash shares were the day’s big losers.

The tech sector index rose 0.7 per cent, leading the S&P 500’s advance. Shares of Facebook jumped 6.2 per cent to $37.62, within striking distance of their $38 IPO price. Facebook was the most actively traded stock on Nasdaq.

Pfizer, a Dow component, gained 0.4 per cent to $29.67 after the largest US drugmaker reported earnings that slightly exceeded expectations.

At the same time, Mosaic’s stock was among the biggest drags on the S&P 500, sinking 17.3 per cent to $43.81 after Russia’s Uralkali dismantled one of the world’s largest potash partnerships by pulling out of a venture with its partner in Belarus, a move it expects will drive global prices down 25 per cent.

The shakeup in the potash sector pushed shares of Intrepid Potash down 28.6 per cent to $13.89. US-traded shares of Potash Corp slid 16.5 per cent to $31.63 and Agrium fell 5.4 per cent to $86.50.

Investors also were cautious ahead of today’s statement from the Federal Reserve, which is expected at the end of a two-day policy meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. Investors will scrutinise the statement for any additional hints of when the central bank may begin to pare its $85bn a month in bond purchases.

The Dow Jones industrial average dipped 1.38 points, or 0.01 per cent, to end at 15,520.59.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index eked out a gain of just 0.63 of a point, or 0.04 per cent, to finish at 1,685.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 17.33 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 3,616.47.